Edgeware - Primer

 


Tales
Another way to think

Some of the paradoxes of complexity

Complexity science is highly paradoxical. As you study the world through a complexity lens you will be continually confronted with 'both-and' rather than 'either-or' thinking. The paradoxes of complexity are that both sides of many apparent contradictions are true.

Aides
Stacey matrix
Wicked questions
Min specs

Principles
Paradox

The first of these paradoxes is that the systemic nature of a CAS implies interdependence yet each of the elements which are interdependent are able to act independently. Interdependence and independence co-exist.

Another paradox in complexity is that simple patterns of interaction can create huge numbers of potential outcomes. Simplicity leads to complexity.  CAS operate in a context that is frequently unpredictable; not merely unknown but unknowable. Yet it is the agents' propensity to predict based on schema of local conditions that allow them to act in an apparently coherent manner.


Bibliography
Hurst/
Zimmerman:
Ecocyle

Complexity science is the study of living systems but living systems die.  As a metaphor associated with life, it needs to encompass all aspects of the life cycle. Death is part of this cycle. The traditional management literature's depiction of the life cycle begins at birth and ends at decline. Complexity also includes the study of death and renewal.


Bibliography
Morgan:
Images

Aides
Metaphor
Reflection

Complexity is a metaphor
A recent article in a popular magazine argued that we needed to distinguish between complexity researchers who were using the 'theory' from those who were using the 'metaphor'. What that statement missed is that all science is metaphor, as Gareth Morgan argues. It is metaphor which shapes our logic and perspective. Metaphor influences the questions we ask and hence the answers we find. A powerful metaphor becomes deeply rooted in our ways of understanding and is often implicit rather than explicit. In biological terms, a metaphor is the schema by which we make sense of our situation.


Bibliography
Morgan:
Images


Aides
Metaphor
Reflection


Principles
Complexity lens


"As a physician, I learned to think from a biological perspective. When I went into management, traditional organizational theory seemed artificial, foreign to my experience. So when I started studying complexity through the VHA project, I was stunned. Here was a way of thinking about organizations hat compared them to living things. That makes sense to me, intuitively."
Richard Weinberg, MD
Vice President,
Network Development
Atlantic Health System
Passaic, New Jersey


Complexity science presents a contrast to the dominant scientific and organizational metaphor and thereby challenges us to see what other questions we can ask about the systems we are studying or living within.  The metaphor of systems as mechanical or 'machines' has shaped our studies in physics, biology, economics, medicine and organizations. Complexity is about reframing our understanding of many systems by using a metaphor associated with life and living systems rather than machines or mechanical systems. Viewing the world through a complexity lens means understanding the world from biological concepts.



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All Components of Edgeware Primer Copyright 2000, Brenda J. Zimmerman.
Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada.
Permission to copy for educational purposes only. All other rights reserved